If a picture is worth a thousand words, then union advocates in Maine believe the new Republican governor is trying to silence the voice of the working class by removing a mural depicting the state's labor history.
But Gov. Paul LePage, who took office in January, says he's removing a 36-foot mural that includes images of worker strikes from the Labor Department's lobby to stay consistent with the department's pro-business goals. He's also renaming departmental conference rooms that carry the names of labor organizers, including Cesar Chavez.
"We want to make sure we're not sending a message swaying one side or the other and this is a mural that sides with the labor movement," LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett told FoxNews.com. "We're making sure we represent all sides."
Bennett said LePage will announce Friday when the mural will be removed and where it will go.The state's arts commission is helping him find the mural a new home.
"We certainly value history and we respect the artist, but we need to find an appropriate place," she said, adding that the decision came after several business officials complained about the mural.
The dustup in Maine comes as Republican governors in several other states, most notably in Wisconsin, clash with labor protesters over bills that seek to tackle budget shortfalls at the expense of union workers.
In Maine, the battle so far is largely symbolic instead of financial. But it is likely a precursor to an upcoming fight over union rights as the state tries to close a projected $837 billion shortfall for the fiscal year ending in June.
Bennett said the governor supports workers' rights to join unions but not mandatory union dues for those who don't.
For now, the battle is focused on the mural that is painted on 11 panels bolted to a wall. It was erected in 2008 after artist Judy Taylor won a competition sponsored by the Maine Arts Commission. The piece depicts the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston, a "Rosie the Riveter" image at the Bath Iron Works, the paper mill workers' strike of 1986 in Jay, and other moments in Maine labor history.
"To remove a mural that tells the story of working Maine people is insulting to working men and women, it's petty and shortsighted and it's yet another example of Gov. LePage putting politics before people," Maine AFL-CIO President Don Berry said in a statement.
But Berry says LePage is picking a fight with Maine's working class.
"No matter what you name a room, no matter how many pictures you take down, the truth is that this state was built by and for working people and this move dishonors the generations of hard-working Mainers who came before us," he said. "Paul LePage cannot erase our history, and he will not silence the voice of the working class in Maine."
But Bennett said the governor is not looking for a fight.
"I don't think any fight is involved in this mural," she said. "It's being made out to look like that by our opponents. But there's no fight that we certainly started."